Kerry gardener’s gold standard at Chelsea – ‘It’s a great honour’

Billy Alexander of Kells Bay Gardens in south Kerry has won gold at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show for his fern display

Billy Alexander of Kells Bay Gardens.

Stephen FernaneKerryman

Ireland’s Master Gardener Billy Alexander of Kells Bay Gardens in Cahersiveen has received a prestigious gold medal at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

The inspiration for Billy’s 2023 display is a nod to the Irish landscape and in particular the wild surrounds of Kerry as his design replicates a Kerry bog with a multitude of fern varieties such as native sphagnum moss features amidst small peaty bog pools.

Large ancient rocks - typical of the Iveragh peninsula landscape – were also used to augment the design.

Described as Billy’s most ‘ambitious plan to date’, he spoke of being overjoyed to receive another gold medal on Monday.

“It’s a great honour. Over the last year, I have spent time travelling to Southeast Asia and South America to source new specimens to add to my collection and planning how I could bring my vision to life,” he said.

He added that he will continue to be inspired by the local environment given Kells Bay is such an idyllic place where these ferns can thrive.

The fact this is Billy’s third gold medal to be awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) for his rare and exotic fern displays is a huge source of pride for him.

Previous gold medals at the 2021 Hampton Court, and Chelsea Flower shows respectively is a clear validation of Billy’s ability and the reputation of Kells Bay Gardens – home to one of the largest private collections of exotic tree ferns which grow naturally in a tranquil microclimate.

“While there are considerable hurdles involved in showcasing at respected shows like the Chelsea Flower Show, around finance, logistics and maintaining a high quality of plant health, it is worth every obstacle in moments like this,” Billy said.

"We are thrilled with where our exhibit is placed within the show, in a central position, and we hope to wow our many visitors over the next few days,” Billy said.

The Chelsea Flower Show is the UK’s flagship horticultural event where the best cutting-edge designs and planting schemes along with beautiful displays from leading horticulturists and designers based in the UK and internationally are displayed.

Kells Bay Gardens are situated beside one of Ireland’s most spectacular settings, overlooking the Dingle Bay.

The gardens are known locally as the ‘Jewel on the Ring’ and stretch to just over seventeen hectares, which contain a collection of sub-tropical plants.